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Migrants swamp Italian island

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Migrants swamp Italian island

Almost 500 illegal immigrants, mostly thought to be from Africa, arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on one boat this weekend.

Officials said 478 migrants were on the 25-metre long boat, making it the largest single arrival this year.

The weekend saw another boatload of about 190 reach Lampedusa, while a third group of 100 reached Sicily.

Migrants heading for the EU illegally often end up on Lampedusa, which is nearer Tunisia than mainland Italy.

Exhausted

During the summer, thousands of immigrants hoping to find jobs and prosperity in Europe are dumped on Italy's southern shores by smugglers.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost Mediterranean outpost, is the easiest point of arrival for the smugglers, who are now operating out of Libya as well as Tunisia and Morocco.

The authorities on Lampedusa say their very limited facilities for offering food and shelter to so many exhausted people are being swamped by the latest arrivals.

Escorted by police, they are being taken by chartered ferry or by air to reception centres in Sicily and the mainland for identification and medical checks, our correspondent says.

Nearly two weeks ago, a 15-metre long wooden boat with some 240 migrants docked at the tiny fishing port of Lampedusa after being intercepted by the Italian navy - the previous arrival record.

An unknown number drown or die aboard the boats while attempting to cross to Europe every year.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3649662.stm

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Italy seeks Libya migrant curbs

Italy has summoned Libya's ambassador for talks on efforts to tackle illegal immigration after hundreds of arrivals on Italian shores at the weekend.

About 480 people, thought to have come from north Africa, arrived on Lampedusa island on one boat - a new record.

Another boatload of about 190 reached the same tiny island, while a third group of about 130 made it to Sicily.

Reception facilities on the island of Lampedusa have been swamped by the growing number of arrivals.

Migrants heading for the European Union illegally often end up on Lampedusa, which is nearer Tunisia than mainland Italy.

This weekend's arrivals in southern Italy include migrants claiming to be from various countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Italy believes few are genuine political refugees and that most are fleeing poverty.

An unknown number drown or die aboard the boats while attempting to cross to Europe every year.

Exhausted

Thousands are dumped by people smugglers on Italy's southern shores during the summer months.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost Mediterranean outpost, is the easiest point of arrival for the smugglers, who are now operating out of Libya as well as Tunisia and Morocco.

Italy's Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Libyan ambassador to Italy to a meeting early on Monday over the "new, massive influx of illegal immigrants."

And the Italian ambassador in Tripoli had been ordered to seek "maximum co-operation in the initiatives already agreed to fight illegal immigration" from the Libyan authorities.

The leaders of the two countries had talks last month on ways of stemming the growing tide of migrants.

The two countries signed an accord in July agreeing to mount joint sea, air and land patrols from mid-September.

Italy is also pushing for reception centres to be set up in Libya to stem the tide of "boat people" crossing from North Africa.

Libya has some 9,654km (6,000 miles) of maritime and desert frontiers and lacks equipment and personnel to patrol them effectively.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3650432.stm

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Imagine how many folks make it to the US every year from Mexico, South America, Cuba...not to mention the folks from all over Asia...

Wow...

To think of how many people are willing to risk their lives in order to have a chance at a better life.

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Europe is just as bad... we are completely unable to control our own borders. And annoyingly enough when their caught they arn't sent back, they are put in line for aplication and the tax payer pays or them until its decided whether they can stay or go, and that takes years.

For the love of... !

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Although you wouldn`t think it Australia is a damn hard place to smuggle people into, our government is obsessed with prorecting out borders from illegal aliens and are very efficent at stopping them from getting in. Once they want to the extraoidarnary length of changing the law to stop these people getting in.

They are only trying to find a better way of life, we take so much for granted, which they would just die to have.

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They are only trying to find a better way of life, we take so much for granted, which they would just die to have.

how about instead of simply letting them into our country, we help them deal with whatever problems they have in their home country? oh wait, that would be imperialistic of us.

Everyone should watch the southpark episode Goobacks for a really insightfull look into illegal immigration

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Italy calls time on Libya embargo

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu says Italy is ready to lift EU sanctions on Libya unilaterally if the whole EU fails to do so next week.

Mr Pisanu said Italy could invoke rules allowing an EU member to take action in cases of need and urgency.

Rome wants the embargo lifted so Libya can patrol its shores more effectively and intercept hundreds of illegal migrants who head for Italy each month.

Italy has agreed to co-operate more closely with Libya on migration.

The EU imposed sanctions on Libya after it was linked to a string of terror attacks in the 1980s including the Lockerbie and UTA airliner bombs.

Brussels meeting

Under a new agreement with Libya, Italy will train Libya's police and the two countries will eventually launch joint air, sea and land patrols to curb the influx of migrants.

They also plan to work on deporting illegal immigrants directly from Libya.

Mr Pisanu told journalists in Rome that Italy hoped to persuade its EU partners to lift the sanctions on Libya at talks in Brussels next week.

"Even if the current reservations are not overcome, we could get round this by using a law which allows this in cases of need and urgency," he said.

"So either we will have a unanimous vote next week or, if we don't get it, we shall go ahead all the same."

Mr Pisanu said he would be returning to Libya on 26 September for more talks with the government.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3666944.stm

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EU makes Libya offer on sanctions

The European Union has said it may follow the US in lifting sanctions against Libya, as long as Tripoli shows willingness to curb illegal migration.

Libya needs to demonstrate it has a "comprehensive strategy" to stem flows of illegal immigrants, the EU said.

The body imposed trade sanctions on Libya in 1986.

Europe's relations with Libya have improved since Tripoli pledged to compensate families of victims of the Lockerbie and UTA air crashes.

Eyeing oil

Washington lifted its sanctions against Tripoli on Monday as a reward for giving up weapons of mass destruction.

If EU member states agreed to lift some of its sanctions on Libya, a mission would be sent to the country to assess the country's progress on stemming illegal migrant flows, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin told correspondents.

"If there is a consensus among the member states... we would like this mission to go and work out with the Libyans a set of proposals to co-operate in the fight against illegal immigration in a broader fashion," she said.

Italy's interior ministry says more than 9,700 illegal immigrants, many from North Africa, have arrived on Italy's shores so far this year.

Italy has called for the EU to allow exports to Libya of equipment, such as binoculars and boats, to help the country tackle the problem.

President George W Bush formally revoked all remaining trade sanctions, which affected general trade, aviation and the importing of Libyan oil on Monday. They had been suspended in April.

A freeze on Libyan assets in the US has also been lifted.

Libya had threatened to cancel compensation payments if the sanctions had not been lifted by Wednesday.

The sanctions were first imposed by then US president Ronald Reagan in 1986 in retaliation for what the US saw as Libyan support for terrorist groups.

Members of the EU, like the US, are keen to invest in Libya's substantial oil reserves.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3677074.stm

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Bush lifts Libya trade sanctions

US President George Bush has lifted his country's trade embargo on Libya as a reward for Tripoli's decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.

Most of the sanctions were suspended in April, when Libya announced it was abandoning its weapons programme.

Libya is now expected to pay more than $1bn in compensation to the families of the victims of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.

However, the US is keeping several terrorism-related sanctions in place.

Libya, which has acknowledged responsibility for the bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, had threatened to cancel compensation payments if the sanctions had not been lifted by Wednesday.

International concern

President Bush formally revoked all remaining trade sanctions, which affected general trade, aviation and the importing of Libyan oil.

A freeze on Libyan assets in the United States has also been lifted.

"This step is taken in response to actions that Libya has taken over the past nine months to address concerns by the international community about its weapons of mass destruction programs," US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, the AFP news agency reported.

The sanctions were first imposed by the then US President Ronald Reagan in 1986 in retaliation for what the US saw as Libyan support for terrorist groups.

Mr Ereli said Libya remained on Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism, and was subject to relevant sanctions.

"I would also note that our diplomatic representation in Libya is that of a liaison office. We certainly don't have full diplomatic representation there," he said.

Compensation

The move from the White House is largely symbolic as the US had suspended the sanctions against Libya earlier this year, says the BBC's Rob Watson in Washington.

But the decision to make the lifting of sanctions permanent appears to reflect confidence in Washington that Libya is sticking to its promise to dismantle any weapons of mass destruction programmes, our correspondent says.

All 259 people aboard the Pan Am flight were killed, including 189 Americans. A further 11 people were killed on the ground in Lockerbie.

The families of the Pan Am victims are now expected to receive $4m each.

The families had received a similar payment of $4m each after United Nations sanctions against Libya were lifted last year.

If Libya is removed from the terrorism list, a final payment of $2m per family would be made, bringing the total to $10m each.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3674538.stm

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EU agrees to lift Libya sanctions

The EU has agreed to lift its embargo on the sale of arms to Libya, after pressure from the Italian government.

Italy wants Libya to patrol its coastline more effectively and catch the hundreds of illegal migrants who try to reach Europe by sea each month.

The United States lifted its trade embargo on Libya earlier this week.

EU officials say a formal decision to lift the embargo, which was imposed 18 years ago, would be taken by the union's ministers next month.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini "has expressed his great satisfaction with the agreement reached today in Brussels to completely lift the European Union embargo imposed on Libya", the ministry said in a statement.

"The EU's decision caps off ongoing efforts by Italy to give Libya the tools needed to assure an efficient patrolling of its land and marine borders and adequately confront the illegal immigration phenomenon and crime," it added.

Compensation pledge

Italy's interior ministry had said that more than 9,700 illegal immigrants, many from North Africa, had arrived on its shores so far this year.

It called for the EU to allow exports to Libya of equipment, such as binoculars and boats, to help the country tackle the problem.

The EU and the US imposed trade sanctions on Libya in 1986 in retaliation for what they saw as Libyan support for terrorist groups.

US and European relations with Libya have improved since Tripoli pledged to compensate families of victims of the Lockerbie and UTA air crashes.

Members of the EU, like the US, are keen to invest in Libya's substantial oil reserves.

Washington lifted its sanctions against Tripoli on Monday as a reward for giving up weapons of mass destruction.

President George W Bush formally revoked all remaining trade sanctions, which affected general trade, aviation and the importing of Libyan oil.

The embargo had been suspended since April.

A freeze on Libyan assets in the US was also been lifted.

Libya had threatened to cancel compensation payments if the sanctions had not been lifted by Wednesday.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3680686.stm

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Italy and Libya move on migrants

Italy's Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu visits Libya on Sunday to begin implementing a landmark agreement on curbing illegal immigration to the EU.

The deal was reached last month between Libya's Colonel Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The EU cancelled its embargo last week on selling military equipment to Libya, allowing Italy to provide supplies for joint operations with Libyan police.

These include night-vision equipment, military vehicles and helicopters.

Naval and coastguard personnel from both countries will also patrol together.

Libya's thousands of kilometres of desert and maritime frontiers are difficult to police, but both countries have a strong interest in bringing the flood of illegal immigrants from other parts of Africa to Libya under control.

Mr Pisanu told the Italian parliament recently that up to a million Africans and Asians were waiting on Libyan soil for sea transport to Italy provided by people-smugglers.

Similar agreements signed by the Italians with Tunisia and Albania have drastically reduced the number of arrivals of illegal immigrants seeking entry into the EU from those countries.

The problem of deterring illegal immigrants from third countries who transit through Libya is more complex to solve.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3690648.stm

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Italy deports island immigrants

Italy has begun airlifting migrants back to their point of departure after facilities on its southern outpost were swamped by hundreds of new arrivals.

Three plane loads of illegal immigrants were sent back to Libya on Saturday from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, with more planned on Sunday.

More than 600 migrants reached Lampedusa during Saturday night alone.

The decision to send many back to their point of departure marks an abrupt change of policy for the government.

Lampedusa is the nearest geographical arrival point in the central Mediterranean for those seeking to enter the European Union by sea from North Africa.

Such migrants used to initially be taken to reception centres on Italy's mainland.

Desperate

Three planeloads of people of various African, Asian and Middle Eastern nationalities were flown off the island on Saturday and more flights were planned in an attempt to relieve the pressure upon the island's only reception centre.

This centre - run by volunteers - can hold up to 200 people, but there were more than 1,000 new arrivals waiting for food and shelter at the last count.

Italy's Interior Ministry says the tough new action will curb the efforts of human traffickers.

Giuseppe Pisanu warned many would be sent straight back before even reaching the Italian mainland.

"Those desperate people who still think they will be able to illegally set sail for Italy should be aware that they will be sent back to where they started from as soon as they have received humanitarian assistance," Mr Pisanu said in a statement.

Thousands of would-be immigrants flood the shores of Lampedusa and the country's porous coastline each year.

Many are believed by police to sail from Libya in small boats run by people smugglers.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3712052.stm

Goodbye

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Many drown as migrant ship sinks

At least 17 people drowned off the coast of Tunisia when their boat sank while trying to reach Italy illegally, the Tunisian authorities say.

Another 47 are missing, presumed drowned. All those on board were from Morocco and Tunisia.

The news came as a row erupted over Italy's decision to send migrants back to their point of departure.

Three planeloads of migrants were flown to Libya on Saturday, and a further 800 people are due to be expelled.

The Tunisian navy says the immigrants' boat sank only an hour after it had sailed for Italy.

Eleven people were rescued and the search for possible survivors is continuing.

The latest tragedy at sea is the latest in a long series of accidents involving the trafficking of thousands of would-be immigrants to Italy from small ports in north Africa.

Entry point

In an abrupt change of policy, the Italian government decided at the weekend to send three planeloads of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East on the small island of Lampedusa back to Libya.

Hundreds of migrants have arrived in the past few weeks on the island, the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from north Africa.

Refugee groups have expressed concern that the migrants had been denied access to proper asylum procedures.

The director of the Italian Council for Refugees, Christopher Heine, told the BBC that many of the migrants came from countries such as Sudan, with severe conflicts and human rights violations.

"Not giving these persons the possibility to claim asylum in a European country is totally contrary to all the rules and regulations and international conventions," he said.

The United Nations' refugee agency says it has written to the Italian and Libyan governments, requesting access to the migrants.

"We would request that everyone gets a chance to be assessed to see who needs protection and who does not," a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

Abuse fears

Those who survive the dangerous journey to the tiny island of Lampedusa used to be taken to reception centres on Italy's mainland.

However, Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said the government would continue send the migrants to Libya to cope with what he described as an emergency.

Libya is not a signatory to the UN's Geneva Convention on refugees and has been accused of widespread abuse of migrants.

It is unclear what will happen to those refugees, although the UNHCR says it believes they are still in Libya.

The Italian authorities believed many migrants sail from Libya in small boats run by people smugglers. Italy has promised to give Libya equipment to detect and halt the boats, with training also pledged.

At least 1,200 people are currently in the island's only reception centre, designed to hold up to 200 people.

A spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres, which treats migrants as they arrive in Lampedusa, told the BBC that conditions inside the centre would be extremely difficult.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3712696.stm

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UN seeks access to Italy migrants

The UN has asked for access to migrants landing illegally in Italy as Rome presses ahead with the mass expulsions by air that began at the weekend.

The UN's refugee agency said it wanted to ensure genuine refugees were not expelled along with illegal migrants arriving by sea from North Africa.

Italy has sent at least 11 planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday, in a dramatic change of policy.

It acted after more than 600 arrived on the island of Lampedusa in one night.

Up to 600 people are known to have been deported and the tough policy has caused mounting concern among humanitarian agencies.

The plight of desperate illegal migrants who are often put to sea in old boats by human traffickers was highlighted by news that a ship had sunk off Tunisia on Sunday, with the confirmed loss of 22 lives.

On Monday, an Italian warship intercepted a wooden boat crammed with some 150 people in international waters off Lampedusa and summoned the Tunisian navy to escort it back to the North African coast.

Others were spotted heading from Libya to Lampedusa in a rubber dinghy, according to an Italian coastguard quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

Demand for access

Raymond Hall, director of the UN refugee agency's (UNHCR) Regional Bureau for Europe, said all asylum-seekers "should have access to a fair procedure".

"UNHCR should have access to them and we stand ready to assist Italian authorities in ensuring that those who do need protection get it," he said.

He added that the agency appreciated the "very strong pressures" on Italy.

His comments joined a chorus of criticism of the Italian policy.

Stefano Savi, director of Doctors Without Borders in Italy, said Italy had a humanitarian duty to potential refugees.

"Many of the men and women who head to Italy are making dangerous trips to flee war and persecution," he said, in a statement issued jointly with Amnesty International.

The African Union condemned the expulsions, complaining that immigrants' human rights were "less and less observed by authorities of host countries".

Libya is not a signatory to the UN's Geneva Convention on refugees and has been accused of abusing the rights of migrants.

However, Italian officials quoted by AFP news agency said they were allowing arrivals from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia access to the asylum process, while those from other countries were being expelled.

'Assault on Italy'

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu spoke of an "assault on the Italian coast... by criminal gangs who ruthlessly cash in on illegal immigration".

In an abrupt change of policy, the Italian government decided at the weekend to start sending migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East back to Libya by plane.

Italy's interior ministry undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano told the La Stampa newspaper on Monday that sending migrants back was a method the country would use "increasingly".

"If they know they will be sent back, maybe they won't set off?" he said in La Stampa newspaper.

At least three flights reportedly took off on Monday.

The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from north Africa.

Back to Libya

The BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli that the migrants will be held in detention centres before being flown back to their country of origin.

The Tunisian navy rescued 11 people from the boat which sank on Sunday - only an hour after setting off for Italy carrying would-be migrants from Morocco and Tunisia.

"Half an hour after they left, the boat split under the weight of the passengers and broke in two, throwing everybody into the sea," said one witness.

As of Monday, 42 people were still missing, believed drowned.

Navies from European Union countries are due to start patrolling international waters around Lampedusa this week, in an attempt to deter people trafficking.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3714922.stm

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Italy feels strain of migrant exodus

By William Horsley

BBC European affairs correspondent

Italy stands accused of breaking the Geneva Convention on refugees by putting many of the latest migrants to arrive on the island of Lampedusa straight on a plane back to Libya without giving them the chance to apply for asylum.

Italy's Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu insists his government is still respecting international law, while trying to show would-be immigrants that it is not worth the high risks involved in trying to reach Italian soil.

But Christopher Hein, of the country's Council for Refugees, told the BBC that Italy is now violating the Convention.

The Italian government calls the situation on Lampedusa an emergency. Its facilities for dealing with large numbers of refugees or migrants have for some time been overwhelmed by the scale of the influx.

Occasionally, boats full of refugees have been turned away before reaching Italy's shores. There is little public support for measures to give the boat people a more generous welcome.

Italy is on the front line. Its frantic efforts to stop the outflow of "boat people" setting out from North Africa have so far come to little.

Libya's leader Colonel Gaddafi has agreed in principle to accept help in stemming the movement of large numbers of people from Africa, the Middle East and further afield through Libya towards Europe.

But criminal gangs of people-smugglers on the Libyan coast are still sending out boats overloaded with refugees who are fleeing from war, poverty or persecution and hope for a better life inside Europe.

Transit camps

The latest disaster to be reported is the sinking of a refugee boat off the coast of Tunisia, with the death of up to 60 people from Tunisia and Morocco.

The exodus across the Mediterranean is now reminiscent of the outflow of boat people from Vietnam in the 1980s and the mass exodus of refugees from Bosnia during the war there in the 1990s. No solution to the crisis is in sight.

Italy and Germany have proposed a radical new policy for the EU - helping to run transit camps or centres in countries close to those which produce large numbers of refugees.

That could include Libya and Tunisia, which are close to the conflict in Sudan, and Ukraine which is close to Chechnya. But in view of practical and legal problems, EU ministers who debated the proposals last week could only agree to study them and give more technical and practical support to transit countries.

Libya has not even signed the Geneva Convention on refugees. It has been accused of exploiting the outflow of boat people to advance its goal of getting more financial and political help from Europe.

Faced with public anxiety about the high number of asylum applications in recent years, other European governments have taken steps to bring the numbers down. They include new entry visa restrictions and tougher rules on applying for asylum.

Business 'need'

One result of these moves has been to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers more to countries at the EU's land and sea borders, like Italy and Poland.

Ironically, Italian business leaders are among those who say that Italy and other EU states now need more immigrants to fill employment needs and prevent a sharp population decline.

The man who is due to become the next EU's Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Rocco Buttiglione, says EU-run transit camps might also serve as places for selecting candidates for regular immigration into the EU.

But the obstacles are many. Most European governments want to satisfy their own populations that they are not making immigration too easy. Meanwhile, refugees from poor countries are dying in large numbers trying to reach Europe.

Millions are also driven to work illegally in EU states because their status is illegal or unclear.

Six years after the EU first decided it should have common rules on asylum and immigration the pressure is growing for them to devise new, just and effective policies on both.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3714158.stm

Italy stands accused of breaking the Geneva Convention on refugees by putting many of the latest migrants to arrive on the island of Lampedusa straight on a plane back to Libya without giving them the chance to apply for asylum.

OH GET BENT! We have enough of our own homeless and carnage in the Balkans without dealing with the economic refugees of North Africa. If you want good economics, adopt western methods, ideologies and politics, and industrialise as we did.

I know there are people over there starving, and I feel sorry for the, but to many of them now come here and live off welfare for the rest of their days and b*tch about how we should change to be more like the country they fled to make it worth our while. We struggled for hundreds of years to get to our stage, rather than jumping into gravy bowl, the Third World Nations should start trying to become more like us. That said, those affluent nations of the west should do more to help them build industry.

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UN attacks Italy's refugee policy

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has criticised the way Italy has handled boatloads of migrants arriving on the southern island of Lampedusa.

UNHCR envoy Juergen Humburg says Italy has flown many of them back to Libya, without considering if any are in genuine need of political asylum.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to visit Libya on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Italian radio says the expulsion flights will also resume on Thursday.

Rai Radio 1 said the flights stopped on Tuesday as Libya struggled to deal with the numbers of people being sent back.

Italy has sent at least 11 planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday, in a dramatic change of policy, put into place after more than 600 arrived on Lampedusa in one night.

Numbers

More than 1,000 migrants, all claiming political asylum, have arrived from North Africa in the past few days. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from North Africa.

Mr Humburg, sent to investigate the situation, left the island on Tuesday after he was denied entry to the detention centre where 500 of the latest arrivals were being held.

He said the Italian government had to find ways to identify the asylum-seekers and the refugees among them.

"It is not acceptable from our point of view to reject these people just because they arrive in big numbers," he said.

"If we find ways to have orderly departure programmes for example, of a higher resettlement quote which would allow refugees and asylum-seekers to reach European countries in conditions of safety I think it would be better for all.

"Even if we have mass influxes of people who are fleeing persecution and human rights violations, we cannot make it a question of numbers. They should be given access to a safe country, to asylum, to protection."

Visit

The Italian government has defended the policy, saying the repatriations will discourage people from setting off.

Mr Berlusconi's trip to Libya will be his second in less than two months. He is expected to discuss with Colonel Gaddafi ways of stemming the numbers of illegal immigrants heading for Italy.

A group of 21 illegal immigrants, mostly Eritreans, were rescued from their sinking canoe as they headed for Lampedusa overnight, according to French news agency AFP.

They were taken to a holding centre on the island.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3719528.stm

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I actually have to defend Italy, as harsh an action as it is, we're getting tens of thousands of economic refugees a year comming to Europe. We can house all of them! What we should be doing is trying to make their countries more habitable, but we can't expect our economy to hold up Africa as well as Europe's populations.

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Italy resumes expelling migrants

Italy has resumed the forced expulsions of migrants to Libya, brushing aside criticism from the United Nations.

The UN refugee agency says the expulsions, which first started at the weekend, are preventing migrants from applying for refugee status.

After the flights were halted on Tuesday, at least two military planes carrying refugees left the southern island of Lampedusa on Wednesday.

Italy says the expulsions will continue in the short term.

UNHCR envoy Juergen Humburg has accused Italy of preventing the agency from meeting the migrants.

The expulsions were triggered after more than 600 people arrived on Lampedusa in one night.

More than 1,000 migrants, all claiming political asylum, have arrived by boat from North Africa in the past few days. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from North Africa.

Italy has sent about a dozen planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to visit Libya on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Earlier, the Italian interior ministry said in a statement: "The process of expelling illegal immigrants who arrive by sea will be completed over the coming days as the situation evolves."

No official explanation was given for the suspension of the flights on Tuesday.

Numbers

Mr Humburg, sent to investigate the situation, left Lampedusa on Tuesday after he was denied entry to the detention centre where the latest arrivals were being held.

He said the Italian government had to find ways to identify the asylum-seekers and the refugees among them.

"It is not acceptable from our point of view to reject these people just because they arrive in big numbers," he said.

"Even if we have mass influxes of people who are fleeing persecution and human rights violations, we cannot make it a question of numbers. They should be given access to a safe country, to asylum, to protection."

The Italian government has defended the policy, saying the repatriations will discourage people from setting off.

Mr Berlusconi's trip to Libya will be his second in less than two months. He is expected to discuss with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ways of stemming the numbers of illegal immigrants heading for Italy.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham told the BBC that the country was working with Italy to tackle immigration from "different dimensions".

A boat carrying 21 illegal immigrants arrived on Lampedusa overnight - the first arrivals in three days.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3721474.stm

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Yes here too we have immigration problem... when the Soviet Union collapsed, many soviet jews (about 750,000) immigrated to Israel under the law of return.

With them, another 250,000 non-Jewish Russians\Ukranians\Belarussians etc. forged Jewish roots in order to immigrate to Israel.

They are now number about 300,000, or 4% of the population.

Most of them are good citizens - as a matter of fact very patriotic citizens. But a large group among them brought anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism to Israel - spreading violence against Jews in neighborhoods where they make up a majority.

The only good thing about it is that their image of weak power-less kike is broken into peaces when they abuse Israeli Jews outside their neighborhoods - there were many times when Jews and neo-Nazis clashed in mixed neighborhoods, with the neo-Nazis being hospitalized grin2.gif

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Italy seeks Libya migrant deal

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected in Libya for talks on how to tackle illegal mass migration from North Africa.

More than 1,500 people have made the journey to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in the past week alone.

Mr Berlusconi and Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will also attend the opening of a 540km (335-mile) gas pipeline linking Libya with Sicily.

Italy has been criticised for sending hundreds of migrants back to Libya.

On Wednesday, the Italian authorities marched 400 handcuffed men onto military planes at Lampedusa airport and flew them back to Libya and Tunisia.

The expulsions were triggered after more than 600 people arrived in one night on Lampedusa - the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union - from North Africa.

No asylum

Mr Berlusconi and Mr Gaddafi are expected to discuss a controversial plan to set up reception centres in North Africa to process migrants before they set out to sea in an attempt to get to Europe.

In Tripoli, the Libyan Minister for National Security Nasser Mabruk told the AFP news agency that the illegal immigrants expelled by Italy in the past week were all Egyptian nationals and had been taken back to Egypt.

"More than 40,000 immigrants have been expelled by Tripoli; Libya has become a victim of clandestine immigration," he added.

Human rights campaigners have said Italy's rapid expulsions have prevented genuine refugees from claiming asylum.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said one of its representatives would be visiting the holding camp in Lampedusa, after the Italian government prevented earlier visits.

Rome has urged Tripoli to crack down on those responsible for smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean.

It has promised to give Libya equipment to detect and halt the boats, and pledged to help with training.

The situation was brought up during a visit to Tripoli by the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, ahead of a visit by French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Chirac's visit would be the first by a French president in more than two decades, and is another sign of Libya's warming ties with the West.

The Libyan leader invited Mr Berlusconi to the western coastal city of Mellitah for Thursday's opening of the gas pipeline.

The West Libyan Gas Project pipeline has been built at a cost of $5.6bn by the Italian oil groups Eni and Agip with Libya's state oil company NOC, AFP reports.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3722480.stm

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Asylum storm buffets holiday island

By Mike Donkin

BBC correspondent in Lampedusa

There is a corner of the picturesque harbour at Lampedusa which is a graveyard - for the fishing boats aboard which so many migrants from North Africa have made perilous and overcrowded journeys.

They lie at crazy angles, half-sunk in the oily water. Scattered across their decks you can see blankets, odd shoes and water bottles, discarded by the lucky passengers who made it ashore.

Nearly 10,000 would-be asylum seekers have washed up on Italy's southernmost outpost so far this year. That's twice the island's population.

Expelled

Until October most were shipped onward to neighbouring Sicily, where their claims for political refuge were checked.

But when numbers suddenly swelled the Italian government took more drastic measures. Migrants were despatched back handcuffed in military planes from Lampedusa direct to Libya. No questions asked.

Human rights groups and the United Nations refugee agency the UNHCR condemned this as indiscriminate and unfair.

And suddenly a holiday island that's just 20 square kilometres of rock, and which few had ever heard of, is at the centre of an international storm.

Sleek, Italian coastguard cutters cruise the sea off Lampedusa to intercept the migrants' boats as they head across from the coasts of Libya and Tunisia.

The crew, immaculate in their white uniforms, train powerful binoculars from the rail and scan radar screens in the wheelhouse. But they cannot stem the migration tide.

"Every day and every night our patrol boats are out here," harbour master Michel Niosi says. "And we have planes from Sicily searching too.

"It's our job not just to stop these people but to save them from drowning, and we do save many. But to prevent them coming?" He shakes his head. "We can't do that. There must be political agreement between Europe and these African states."

Something needs to be done fast, the islanders of Lampedusa will tell you. They would like to see the back of the "boat people" for good, they say, because news coverage of these uninvited visitors is ruining the one and only industry here - tourism.

Tourism hit

Signor Rosario is planting rows of parasols outside his beachfront hotel as he puts the concerns of everyone.

"The economy of this island depends on tourists - 100%. When they hear about this problem they don't want to come here.

"The government must do something. It must close the door to these people. Close the door and help them in another way."

But how to do that? Hundreds of thousands of people have already made their way from the war-torn and the poorest nations of Africa to attempt to cross the long Mediterranean coast that is now Europe's most fragile frontline. More will surely follow.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is taking what steps he can. He has flown to meet the Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli.

And Italy, along with Britain and Germany, has also promoted a controversial plan to build holding camps in North Africa and process migrants before they set out to sea.

That scheme seriously worries several leading humanitarian agencies, who say it would expose already vulnerable people to new risks.

"Libya and other countries where these camps might be sited could not be guaranteed to respect international agreements on how to protect refugees," Juergen Humburg of the UNHCR told me on Lampedusa. "It would be dangerous for these people."

It is not possible to ask the migrants how they view all of this on the island itself. The old stone building that has turned into a detention centre has heavy bars on every window, high steel gates and spirals of razor wire. Not even aid workers get inside to meet the inmates.

Those who were earlier allowed to go to Sicily do have stories to tell however: Stories of the risks they took in travelling across Africa to go to Lampedusa, and of many hours spent on open boats in the scorching sun with no food or water.

They are keen as well to explain what drove them to this.

In the Southern Sicilian town of Agrigento 60 or more men from countries like Sudan, The Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Eritrea queue up with their trays to be served lunch of pasta and chicken by cheerful local volunteers.

All are quick to deny they are economic migrants.

Dangerous crossing

A tall Eritrean in his mid-20s has a typical tale. "I was a soldier with the army and I fought for six years," he says. "My captain told me to shoot men who had deserted from the war, and I was not willing. So I had to run away.

"I paid $1,000 to cross to Lampedusa from Tunisia but something was wrong with the boat so we had to go back. I had to pay another $1,000 to try again - that time from Libya.

"It was so dangerous on the sea, but I had no choice. They would not let me stay in Libya or Tunisia."

So are his troubles over now? No, he is grateful to the social workers at the centre and to the Italian government for their hospitality but still does not have permanent refugee papers.

And it will be some months before his appeal to stay is finally processed.

"Until now I haven't got political asylum and I don't know if I will," he says. "While we all wait here it is very hard. We can eat but we must sleep on the street. We have hardly any clothes and no money. We cannot get a job when we are in this situation.

"I wish that Europe, that all nations were aware of our problems."

At the centre that evening a dozen of the migrants sit at tables to learn some Italian - basic greetings and how to ask for a cup of tea.

There is laughter as they get the phrases wrong, light relief as their wait for the chance of a new life goes on.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ope/3731356.stm

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